In 1983, Cilla signed a record breaking contract with London Weekend Television (ITV) to host ‘Surprise!, Surprise!’ heralding the beginning of another extraordinarily successful phase of her lengthy television career.
‘Surprise, Surprise’ commenced on the 6th of May 1984 after a pilot show from a year earlier was deemed a success. In its early days, the show consisted of a mixture of variety entertainment with a heartfelt blend of audience surprises and participation. Trademark features included Cilla’s theme song “Surprise, Surprise” as well as comical sketches referred to as “Cillagrams” involving Cilla going out on location to “surprise” and sing to viewers.
In later years, the show was commissioned purely for one-off specials such as Mothering Sunday and Christmas focusing on reuniting long-lost loved ones and offering unsuspecting members of the audience “celebrity” surprises.
The original show hosted by Cilla ended on the 26th December 2001 after 14 series and 137 episodes broadcast. The TV series returned in 2012, with new host Holly Willoughby having Cilla on an episode as a special guest star.